Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is delighted to award a GLAD[i] to Sowetan LIVE for the article, “Stepfather gets five life sentences for raping girl repeatedly since she was four” (29 May 2019) in which the journalist correctly concealed the identities of the children who are victims of abuse.
The article, written by Nonkululeko Njilo, tells the story of a 38-year-old Durban man who was recently sentenced to five terms of life imprisonment at the Richard’s Bay Regional Court. The man was sentenced for repeatedly raping his stepdaughter since the age of four in 2005 as well as for sexually assaulting another minor, an 11-year-old child who was a friend to his stepdaughter.
In this reportage, the journalist does not name the perpetrator, or any other related person, in order to protect the identity of the child. Moreover, they go on further to give a brief explanation as to why this is the case. In addition, the second child of which the stepfather is found to have sexually assaulted is not referred to by name, meaning that her identity is also protected.
According to one of the principles and guidelines for media reporting on children by UNICEF, a journalist should “not publish a story or an image that might put the child, their siblings or peers at risk, even when their identities are changed, obscured or not used.”[ii]
Furthermore, South Africa’s constitution, the cornerstone of the country’s democracy, stipulates in Section 28(2) of the Bill of Rights: “[a] child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.”[iii]
In addition, the journalist also adhered to the Criminal Procedure Act Section 154 (3) that states now reads as ruled by the Supreme Court of Appeal, “No person shall publish in any manner whatever any information which reveals or may reveal the identity of an accused under the age of 18 years or of a victim or of a witness at criminal proceedings who is under the age of 18 years.”
Withholding children’s identities in such stories protects them from harm that might come as a result of having their identities revealed in the media. Revealing the children’s identities in this story might have potentially subjected them to victimisation.
In this article, the journalist demonstrates care and good journalistic practice and we as MMA commend them for not only protecting the identity of the children, but importantly for also informing the public as to why this is the case. We hope that the journalist will continue exercising such precaution when reporting on children.
By Azola Dayile
[i] A GLAD refers to an article where the rights and welfare of children have been promoted.